I’m really looking forward to this afternoon’s match and even more than usual for the first game of the season I’m going to be spending a long while figuring out who all the new players are. I like the look of Jack Ross. Unlike his compatriot David Moyes he has a confident look about him and his record at St Mirren speaks for itself. From what I saw of the later pre-season games I like the look of our side now too and they were getting better and better as time went on, putting together attack after attack instead of passing the ball sideways and backwards as we’ve seen for so long. If the heavens hadn’t opened, I think we would’ve beaten Boro. I’ll be at the game, in the East Stand, and I think the atmosphere is going to be very buoyant for a change with over 30,000 expected. If we happen to go behind, we’ll need to back the side and roar them on to victory. I see Big Bob the Psychic Sunderland Pig has forecast promotion this season, albeit through the play-offs, and that’ll do me. As for today’s match, my prediction is a 2-1 victory.
After a cool drink in Fitzie’s my mates and I made our way over a crowded Wearmouth Bridge and got to the ground about fifteen minutes before kick-off but we didn’t get in till about ten minutes after the start, just in time to see that Charlton had taken the lead with a Taylor penalty. For one thing it was difficult to work out where the long queues began and a few stewards in the right place would’ve helped. There was also a problem with some tickets as the turnstiles clearly took exception to a lot of them. One of my pals was effing and blinding like hell when several people in front of us continued to re-insert their tickets even though they were clearly not going to be admitted. Of course, when it came to his turn he couldn’t get in either and had to beat it to a nearby turnstile that had been opened to ease the crowding. Anyway, as to the match for the next fifteen minutes or so alarm bells were going off all over my head as I watched passes going astray and defenders dithering alarmingly (nothing new there, mind). Of course, with so many new players it was inevitable that communication wouldn’t be too hot and with Charlton looking like a much more fluent unit, particularly the speedy Aribo, it felt like our bubble was going to burst. However, after Oviedo replaced the injured Love a little after the midway point things started to improve and for the remainder of the half we took the initiative creating several decent scoring chances. Charlton were taking no prisoners and both Page and Pearce were yellow-carded for fouls but we couldn’t make any free-kicks count. A Loovens header went just over and in stoppage-time Maja had a great chance to level it but his low shot was blocked by goalie Phillips. There was a lot of applause as the half-time whistle went and one boo from a bloke near me. After a shaky start we’d got back on track and I was feeling pretty optimistic about our chances of getting at least a drawer.
Sinclair had replaced O’Nien as we kicked off again and he soon showed himself to be a lively customer. It took me a very long time to figure out that it was O’Nien that had been replaced as the p.a. system was largely inaudible to me and the giant screens were giving away next to no information apart from the score. We were continuing to put the pressure on and create some nice chances with Gooch making a few great runs. Sinclair and Solly had a bad clash of heads and were down for several minutes. Solly returned from a spell off the pitch with a bandaged head and Sinclair was away for ages but finally re-emerged unbandaged but to much applause. There was clearly going to be at least five minutes of stoppage-time and I was looking forward to that. Around the midway point we equalized and it was a great goal from Maja. He received a pas from Matthews at the right hand corner of their box and then suddenly swivelled before firing a low shot into the corner of the net. Cue great rejoicing in the sunshine. We pressed forward and a win was in the air. Charlton countered and we couldn’t seem to get them out of our half as they won throw after throw but we finally made it through that patch and began to create some decent efforts. A great free-kick from Maguire was well-saved by Phillips who also did well to keep out a follow-up header form Maja. With six minutes to go Sinclair got on the end of a low cross but his shot went tantalizingly wide. I thought we’d won a corner but next thing Charlton were awarded a free-kick and Gooch was booked. Pearce was injured in this farrago and more minutes went by while he received treatment and then got a lot of earache from our fans as he got off the stretcher and walked round to the tunnel. So, we entered stoppage-time. How long? I don’t know as the big screens weren’t saying anything. We were really going for it and won a couple of corners in a row. It looked like we’d duffed the second of these as it swung away to the left of their box but when it was hit back in Gooch powered a great header into the net to send us all into raptures. My mate had his stopwatch going and he reckoned there were only thirty seconds to go.
This was a very heartening victory and a win at home is a rare thing in itself. Of the new players I was impressed by Maguire and Loovens particularly while in McLaughlin it seems like we’ve finally got a goalie who knows what he’s doing. Mumba looked composed for such a young lad and the only one who was giving me the jitters was Ozturk. Still, it’s very early days so I’ll reserve real judgement for a while. Rejoice!